Today, young people are expected to skip school and gather in more than 1,200 cities in 90-plus countries around the world to demand action on climate change. The global Youth Climate Strike movement began with Greta Thunberg, 16, who last summer started protesting alone outside Sweden’s parliament instead of attending school on Fridays. “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis,” said Thunberg (who was just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize) during a speech at the 2018 UN climate conference in Poland.
In the U.S., events are planned today in more than 100 cities (see the interactive map below, created by Youth Climate Strike). CityLab spoke with people planning to take part about why they’re striking and the issues they’re most concerned about.
Protecting the Amazon rainforest and the Chesapeake Bay (and other ecosystems)
Serena Moscarella, 16, of Bethesda, Maryland, will ride the D.C. Metro with schoolmates to the climate rally on Capitol Hill. She is part Brazilian, and when she lived in Brazil for five years, losses in the Amazon rainforest disheartened her. “It really hurt me to see that the government is not taking more action to prevent the Amazon rainforest from being cut down,” she said.
After Moscarella moved to the Washington, D.C. area, seeing efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay inspired her to get more involved in protecting the environment. She has been helping with national logistics and fundraising for the Youth Climate Strike movement. “It’s something that makes me feel like I’m making a real change,” she said.
Animal welfare and wildlife conservation
Colleen McKenney, who is 14 and a vegan, is traveling from upstate New York to D.C. because of her concern “for the future of the entire world and ecosystems and [the world’s] species.” But there are other issues she is passionate about—many more—that she rattled off. She wants to fight for: “hunting bans; conservation of animals, land, and plants; sustainable resources and renewable energy; respecting Native American treaties.” And against: “zoos, circuses, the illegal wildlife trade … deforestation, climate change.”
The Green New Deal and renewable energy
Fatima Bucio, 20, of Granite City, Illinois, is co-organizing the climate strike in St. Louis. In addition to voicing her concern for marine and animal life, Bucio spoke about the promise of the Green New Deal for places like Granite City.
“Solutions can come from that,” Bucio said, “with people not losing their jobs, so a small town like this won’t become a ghost town.”
Beatrice Hill, 13, from Montgomery County, Maryland, will attend the D.C. rally. The issue she’s most passionate about? Renewable energy. Hill suggests “more tax breaks for renewable energy, [and taxing] oil a lot higher, so that renewable energy gets a fair shot in the competition.”
When Hill talks about climate change with her friends, she said, “We get mad about it, because within our lifetimes, the earth will reach an un-saveable level if we don’t take drastic measures to save it.”
Marni Majorelle, an environmental activist and mother in New York City who helped teens organize the protest at New York’s City Hall, said young people’s sense of urgency is appropriate to the scope of the problem.
“The kids that I’m working with are articulate and knowledgeable about issues with climate change. … If they want their future, they have to go and get it,” she said. “It’s not being looked after well by the adults in charge.”
Or as Hill put it: “If the adults are going to screw up our entire future, we have to do something about it.”
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